Chie Hayakawa’s debut feature, “Plan 75,” is playing through Thursday, May 11, at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center, 1332 2nd St. in Santa Monica.
This subsersive film unveils the beauty and dignity of human life, as found behind the benevolent facade of a dystopian Japanese program that gives people aged 75+ the ability to end their lives voluntarily.
Koureikashakai (“super-aged society”) is a new term for Japan’s population. A low fertility rate combined with a high life expectancy, healthy lifestyles, and excellent medical care — not to mention the insularity of the nation and a strict immigration policy — have conjured the perfect storm and won Japan the menacing record of being the oldest country in the world.
Imagining a dystopic, yet seemingly very real, near future, where senior citizens pose a tangible threat to the country’s economy, and elaborating on social values and a spirit of self-sacrifice, Hayakawa spins a quietly subversive tale of lives caught in the web of Plan 75, a government program that encourages euthanasia for people over 75 years of age. Her clean direction, gentle storytelling, and rigorous visual style never stray from reality, striking a balance between lyricism and gritty social commentary.
Michi (Chieko Baisho) is 78 years old and still in good health but with a precarious financial situation. She has lost her job as a cleaner at a hotel and her apartment building is about to be demolished. Soon she will have no place to live, no income, no security, and no future.
Seemingly everywhere around her, Plan 75 is constantly advertised by luring infomercials and she sees long lines of old and poor people queuing for a free bowl of hot soup. There is no place for them — or her — in a society that prioritizes economy and productivity.
But there is no glitter in the fake luxury of Plan 75’s five-star resort and the jingles that advertise it are ominous, sounding like the shrill notes of the Pied Piper’s refrain. Could this be mass murder in disguise?
Baisho’s extensive credits include her role as Sakura, Tora-san’s sister, in the long-running film series “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” (It’s Tough to Be a Man).
The cast of “Plan 75” also includes Hayato Isomura and Stefanie Arianne.
The film won a Golden Camera-Special Mention and was nominated for Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.
Showtimes: 1:20 and 7:20 p.m. Run time: 112 minutes. Not rated. In Japanese with English subtitles.
For reservations and more information, call (310) 478-3836 or visit www.laemmle.com.